Najib’s party weighs early Malaysia vote

In this file photo taken on May 19, 2020,
Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak wears a face mask as he arrives for his corruption trial at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur. (MOHD RASFAN / AFP)

Malaysia’s ruling United Malays National Organization is considering bringing forward a general election that’s due only in 2023, after former premier Najib Razak led the pro-Malay party and its allies to a resounding victory in local polls over the weekend.

UMNO deputy president Mohamad Hasan said that he spoke with the prime minister on considering an earlier election, to capitalize on the current pro-government sentiments, Bernama reported on Sunday. The party won 18 of the 28 seats in the Malacca polls Saturday, while its allies in the Barisan National coalition won three, clinching a super majority in the state.

An early election in Malaysia would benefit Najib Razak and United Malays National Organization 's president Zahid Hamidi the most

An early election in Malaysia would benefit Najib and UMNO party president Zahid Hamidi the most. Zahid would control the list of party candidates to field in an early election, and Najib would likely become the next premier, said Wong Chin Huat, a professor of political science at the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University in Malaysia. Both are on trial for corruption, and neither hold any positions in the current government led by their party colleague Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

ALSO READ: Najib's $24 million ask threatens Malaysia political stability

“Last night, I slept soundly,” Najib said in a video shared to Facebook Sunday morning. “To me, this huge win means that the people have placed their trust and confidence in the Barisan Nasional government.”

Najib was Malaysia’s prime minister from 2009 until the multibillion ringgit corruption scandal involving state fund 1MDB cost his party the 2018 election. He has since been rehabilitating his image through social media, gaining traction among followers with his jibes against the two governments that succeeded his. A strong win in Malacca would now galvanize him politically.

Still, Prime Minister Ismail may resist calls for an early election as it would likely spell the end of his leadership, Wong said. A memorandum of understanding he brokered with the opposition states that the government won’t hold an election before July next year. “Ismail Sabri now has a stronger incentive to make the MOU work,” Wong added.

The opposition may not share the same sentiments, after its huge loss in the local polls Saturday. “We will look deep and hard on what went wrong with Election Commission SOP, coalition and internal party dynamics. The MOU will be one of them,” said opposition lawmaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, or People’s Justice Party.

READ MORE: M'sia pledges spending, green goals in 5-year economic plan

The Pakatan Harapan alliance won just five of the 28 seats it contested on Saturday, prompting UMNO’s Mohamad to question the future of the MOU.

“It’s unsure whether they will withdraw because anything can happen in politics,” Mohamad said in the Bernama report, referring to the opposition. “The dynamics change every day and are not static. As such, it’s up to BN and UMNO to conduct a review.”